Growing up, I loved Christmas and especially Santa Claus. There was a magical quality, and the excitement was very real. Year after year, I remember the sleepless night of Christmas Eve – too excited to rest and yet knowing that I had to stay in my room quietly for Santa to come.
And come he did. Every year without fail, I awoke to a pile of gifts and toys. I can’t remember a time when something on my list didn’t end up under the tree, whether it was a coveted Cabbage Patch Kid or a Victorian dollhouse. Bless my sweet parents!
I believed in Santa Claus for a long time, certainly longer than most of my peers. And I was sad when I knew the truth. Some of the magic disappeared, and a lot of the excitement went with it. Christmas just wasn’t the same.
Now, with two kids, I find myself in the role of Santa’s helper, and I’m trying to figure out my own approach to this tradition. I want my kids to have the magic and wonder of Christmas, but…
But now we’ve got mile-long lists to Santa (thanks Target for those helpful catalogs), mall trips to take photos with Santa, trains to visit Santa, and special places to mail letters to Santa. And let us not forget that ubiquitous Elf on the Shelf, along with his pets and his outfits, books and other merchandise. (Don’t believe me? Just search Amazon for a second.) Thankfully, an Elf doesn’t live at our house, but my Facebook feed is filled with Elf antics and there are Pinterest boards full of ideas.
Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but “Santa’s watching” doesn’t make my children’s behavior better. I think they’ve figured out that Santa hasn’t actually followed through with his threats and that no coal has actually been delivered.
Instead of better behavior, we’ve got greedy lists of expensive toys. And it seems like the wrapping paper is barely off before they’ve moved on to another list of stuff that they “have to have.”
There doesn’t seem to be much magic involved – just merchandise. So, I’m questioning the whole arrangement. Am I teaching my kids the lessons that I value? Are they learning kindness and caring and giving? Or are they grabbing and demanding and whining? Are they being “good for goodness sake” or are they just trying to check off the days until they get the goods?
We want our kids to be good year-round, right? And we want them to do the right things for the right reasons. We want them to care about others and experience the joy of giving to others. I’m not sure that Santa – at least the version we’ve got going at our house – is reinforcing those ideas.
I’m not ready to give up on the magic just yet. We’ll be working harder to talk about the love, caring, and joy that are represented in Santa Claus. We’ll be emphasizing family and time together, rather than things. It won’t be perfect, but it’s a start. And, yes, now that our kids are getting a little older, we are talking more about the real meaning of Christmas.
Santa, I still believe. I believe that the wonder of Christmas lives. We just have to look a little harder to find it.